The Rise and Fall of Jeff Petry

I don’t recall a prospect in the Edmonton Oilers system with the same distance between his statistics and the verbiage available on him.

Jeff Petry was the Oilers top pick in the summer of 2006, which was the year Edmonton went all the way to G7 SCF. In his draft year his team (Des Moines, USHL) won their championship and he played in that league’s all-star game.

The following year he had a dominant season in the USHL, winning USA Hockey’s Junior player of the year award. It was during this time that the scouting reports began to reach epic proportions. Leading the way were Kevin Prendergast (if scouting reports are a day at the dog track KP is the rabbit on the rail) and Hockey’s Future.

Looking at that final USHL season (55gp, 18-27-45) we see a ton of offense and a plus minus (Even) that ranked #1 among the team’s regulars. Although the USHL isn’t the NCAA the numbers (across the board) suggested there was something to get excited about.

I had two concerns about Petry as a player. First, he was pretty old to be playing in the USHL (he turned 19 in December of his final season at that level) and second there were always whispers about foot-speed. These are important considerations: one of the real positives for Matt Greene all down the line was his ability to skate and for a big defenseman that’s a wonderful skill.

When he arrived in the NCAA, Petry did it in style. His first season with Michigan State saw him make the NCAA West-Regional All Tournament Team, the CCHA All-Rookie Team and won Michigan State’s Top Rookie and Outstanding Defenseman awards.

  • Boxcars: 42gp, 3-21-24 28pims
  • Plus Minus: +2 (team was +12)
  • Powerplay: 1-11-12 (50% of offense)
  • Shots: 82

I think Petry’s offense was heavily reliant on the powerplay and the veterans he played with as a freshman in the NCAA. His plus minus was solid for a rookie but this was a veteran bunch and it’s likely a decent bet he wasn’t playing the best opposition in his first college season.

This past season the wheel’s came off for the Spartans and Petry was unable to do much to stop it. I don’t think there’s much doubt he was playing heavy and long minutes for his team and that those circumstances dictated the poor numbers.

  • Boxcars: 38gp, 2-12-14 32pims
  • Plus Minus: -31 (team was -53)
  • Powerplay: 2-8-10 (71% of offense)
  • Shots: 85

A few important points here: The team was horrible and Petry (from what we’ve read and seen) played monster minutes for this team. A club that is -53 and runs three D pairings would have a “line in the sand” number for the D of -18 (53 divided by 3) but we can allow for some extra bleeding due to his increased minutes. This was a saloon door defense though, and I don’t think we can reasonably argue Petry was a lone shining light for the team. Here are the plus minus numbers for the blue:

  1. Brock Shelgren +1
  2. Matt Crandell -11
  3. Justin Johnston -15
  4. Brandon Gentile -18
  5. Tim Buttery -22
  6. Jeff Petry -31

I don’t think you can build a reasonable case for Petry as a shutdown defender based on these numbers.

The other point is in regard to offense. Based on his college numbers it looks like a bunch of his offense comes from the powerplay. He does have a big shot (95mph) so this may be an area of strength for him.

I have Petry ranked #19 as an Oilers prospect at this time. Much of the reason has to do with this past season and his splits (first half: 18gp, 1-6-7 -11; second half: 20gp, 1-6-7 -20) plus the fact that the things he brings offensively (powerplay help) are very difficult spots to win in the NHL. The odds of the Oilers not having a superior defender for their PP during the first several years of Petry’s pro career are very low.

HF has him at #6, which is a reasonable number compared to the #1 slot given in the past. Petry has size, a plus shot and his skating has apparently improved. We need to step back from the hype and see what he is: an interesting prospect the odds do not favor at this time.

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